Summary: On our third day in Tanzania, we experienced a true Tanzania safari experience. On this day alone, we view 4 of the "Big Five," in Ngorongoro Crater. Visiting this lush, diverse wild-life sanctuary was a truly remarkable experience, not to mention, a photographer's dream. There is nothing quite like visiting these beautiful animals in their nature habitat. The day itself involved an early morning game drive through Ngorongoro Crater Park followed by a long and bumpy drive to the heart of the Serengeti. Game drives cover a ton of ground, so be prepared for long, hot, and dusty rides, all of which are well worth the effort.
Our day in Ngorongoro Crater National Park started bright and early with a 6:00 a.m. meet up time with our driver and guide Ebenezer. The hope was to get down into the Crater while the sun was coming up to catch heat-shy animals like the Lions. Leaving our accommodations at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge with packed breakfast boxes and packed lunch boxes for everyone, we headed down to the Crater floor.
Not two minutes into our game drive, we came upon a pride of Lions – just as we had hoped. These lazy cats watched us snap photos and drive by without a care. Not two minutes further down the road, we caught up with a family of elephants. It was at this point we realized that we were in for a full day of wildlife.
About Ngorongoro Crater Park. This Conservation Authority of Tanzania is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inhabitation of the area was limited in 2009 by the Ngorongoro Wildlife Conservation Act which displaced the Maasai, the area’s native tribe. Today, most Maasai reside in the lands North of the Serengeti National Park with their hut towns visible from the roadways. The area actually consists of a group of eight extinct volcanoes. The main Crater, Ngorongoro Crater, is thought to have been formed a few million years ago with a volcano collapsed on itself. The Crater is conducive to animal life as it has several different water sources, including Ngoitokitok Spring that creates a large swamp, perfect for hippos and other animals.
The photos speak for themselves but in short, here is a non-exhaustive list of all the animals we saw in the Crater:
· Rhino (!)
· Flamingos and several other birds
· Thomson’s gazelles
· Grant’s gazelle
For breakfast, we stopped and made a picnic outside while we watched hippos pop in and out of the water. Generally, you are not permitted to leave your vehicle. However, there are places such as designated picnic areas and restrooms where visitors can exit their Land Rover while still taking precautions like, “heads up!” as animals are literally everywhere.
Six hours into the game drive, we headed out of the Crater for the long drive to Serengeti National Park. The distance itself is not horrendous but the entire drive is on dirt roads. It’s hot and dusty, and one heck of a bumpy ride. Before exiting the Crater though, we were treated to one last group of elephants:
The length of the drive, however, was less driven by the distance traveled and more by the fact that once we entered the Serengeti, we saw so much wildlife once again. Still, it can be bumpy!
Early in the drive in the Serengeti, we came upon a Cheetah which is one of the few animals that are not found at Ngorongoro Crater. We also saw Giraffe, a Saber cat, Foxes, Lions, a huge amount of Wildebeest and Zebras, as well as a large group of Baboons. This was just a preview to what was planned for our next two days in the Serengeti.
After a 6 hour drive (including a lunch stop along the way), we finally made it to our lodging at Serengeti Sound of Silence Camp. This place was incredible! Each family stays in a tent/hut that is well-equipped with a huge bathroom and large beds, among other amenities. Meals at this Camp were cooked by an amazing chef – all in an outdoor kitchen. Notably, the outdoor kitchen is surrounded by fencing to keep the wildlife out. Here, you are in the heart of the Serengeti where quite literally, a lion could walk up to your hut. For safety measures, each guest is given a walkie-talkie and passage between the dining hall and your hut at night must be accompanied by a staff person. (photos below don't do it justice).
And now the sunset. On our first night in the Serengeti, we were treated to an incredible sunset. It was the perfect ending to an unforgettable day in Tanzania.
About Duma Explorer Safari Company. This Tanzanian and American-owned company came recommended by a family friend. The American owners, Stacy Readal, happens to live close-by to our house so we were able to meet with her in person ahead of our trip. While convenient for us, we could have done everything by email and phone just the same. We have nothing but great things to say about this awesome company. From door-to-door, they had us covered for everything we needed on our trip. Our driver Ebinezer (after Kilimanjaro and for the rest of the week), was so talented at locating animals on our game drives, in addition to just being an over all, fun guy to be around. The lodging at each stop was perfect and each had surprisingly tasty food, along with amazing service. We highly recommend booking with Duma Explorer.
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